Observing PennApps at the Kislak Center

I attended the PennApps hackathon on September 7, and came first thing in the morning to find everyone either asleep or exhausted from a full night of creating projects. A few students were ready to take a break and chat, though, so I’ll share some of their projects and general observations.

I noted that many of the projects focused on making others’ lives more productive, and especially on helping their fellow students in daily life. They were focused on lifestyle and daily habits, such as getting to class, connecting with others socially, and time management. Many groups intended to make Android apps, although some gave up due to lack of experience in mobile development. Those that didn’t create apps without exception created websites that others could freely use.

One project, named AmiGo (admittedly the only Spanish word understood by the group), aimed to connect people with their Facebook friends’ friends, and ideally mutual friends, in real life. They envisioned this being used by traveling students on unfamiliar college campuses, but I immediately saw an application for lonely business travelers as well. The students were surprised by this, but being freshmen, they hadn’t yet had this experience! Their website would be the interface for connecting geographically nearby people with each other, although they had an ideal of creating an Android app for this purpose later.

amigo2

amiGo

Another web-based project was a map showing walking distance between classes, so students could choose classes that they could get to without dashing too quickly. They were taking a break and in the early stages of development when I visited their table.

eatsleephack2

Eat, sleep, hack.

Two projects were Android apps that took opposite stances on privacy and lifestyle. SplitStore was an innovative idea to break up files uploaded to services like Dropbox into pieces and upload each piece to a different service, to keep the NSA or other entities from reading one’s files. Of course, this project was inspired by current events. Yet another app (LifeMeter) aimed to track every action in daily life, however, in order to provide users with a snapshot of how they spend their time so they might reflect on it and manage their time more efficiently.

LifeMeter

LifeMeter in action

The group members of these projects sat right next to each other and found their different takes on privacy to be a funny coincidence – and I did too! It’s great to see students tackling privacy issues in apps when that’s such a current topic and concern, and taking the initiative to develop solutions based on their conclusions about the issue.

Other groups were sleeping, so I only managed to collect information on four projects. Still, it was fascinating to learn about all of the different, yet real-life problems students were interested in solving. I expect all of them to make valuable contributions in the future given their sharp observations of important issues for their peers and innovative solutions to them!

Anu Vedantham of the Weigle Information Commons also had some after-event thoughts to share here:

http://pennwic.wordpress.com/2013/09/11/pennapps-in-van-pelt-my-thoughts/

Take a look at all the innovative submissions here:

http://pennapps.challengepost.com/

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